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Energy to spare

A Comprehensive Guide to Selecting Batteries for Your Home

Daren Wang
January 23, 2024

Snowstorms, nor’easters, hurricanes, wildfires, floods—even a random car accident. There’s always something lurking out in the fringes that could bring down your electric supply.

And more and more often, homeowners are seeking enough energy independence so they can keep the lights on during a grid outage.

For many, that has meant looking at sustainable energy systems such as a solar array. And as the impact of climate change becomes more apparent, the imperative to harness the full potential of solar energy becomes not just a choice but a necessity for those looking to make a lasting difference.

But a solar energy system isn’t enough to keep the lights on. In fact, almost all solar energy systems are required to automatically shut off when there’s a grid outage as a safety measure. If the energy from a grid-connected rooftop energy system kept flowing, utility workers would not be at risk of electrocution when they tried to repair downed lines. So residential solar needs to automatically cut off during outages. Unless there’s a home backup battery attached.

With a home backup battery, the energy generated from a rooftop solar energy system can be automatically and safely diverted into storage when there’s a grid outage.

Solar and Battery Storage

A solar battery system is a smart choice for homeowners seeking energy independence and peace of mind. But an energy storage unit can do a lot more for a homeowner than simple backup.

As more and more people switch to solar energy, sol solar energy rises, maximizing its potential becomes crucial for a worthwhile investment. Incorporating a solar battery system ensures a reliable and efficient means of storing surplus solar energy for future use. This empowers homeowners to enhance self-sufficiency, reduce grid reliance, and use or sell cheap solar energy when grid prices spike during peak hours too.

And there’s a big climate impact to using stored energy during peak hours, too. Utilities have many power sources at their disposal—solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, natural gas, and coal plants are the most common. Most often, coal is the most expensive source of energy, so utilities only fire up coal plants at peak hours. Of course, coal is the dirtiest major source of energy these days too. Storing clean, natural solar energy in your home battery during the daylight hours to use during peak demand hours in the evening means that you are helping the utilities burn the least amount of coal, the dirtiest energy sources we have.

So, a whole-home battery brings several advantages, including:

Lower Electric Bills: Storing and using self-generated solar energy leads to long-term cost savings. A battery backup system can capitalize on time-of-use pricing, optimizing energy costs.

Energy Independence: Generating and storing electricity reduces reliance on the grid, fostering energy independence.

Power During Outages: In case of a power outage, a solar battery backup ensures a reliable source of electricity, keeping essential appliances powered.

Maximized Solar Energy Usage: Stored solar energy can be utilized at night or in cloudy weather, maximizing the solar panel system.

Environmental Benefits: Solar battery systems contribute to reducing reliance on fossil fuels, lowering carbon emissions for a cleaner and sustainable energy future.

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Solar Battery Storage System

In recent months, the cost of energy storage has dropped as more production has come online. Although it’s possible that prices will come down more, the supply of newly mined lithium has been subject to many disruptions over the past few years and that trend is likely to continue. If you’re ready to update you’re home’s energy system, there’s never been a better time.

Before deciding on a solar battery system, consider factors like grid-tie vs. off-grid, types of solar batteries, and the capacity needed for your home and energy future.

The Difference Between Grid-Tie vs. Off-Grid:

  • Grid-Tie: Connects to the public utility grid, suitable for properties with access to power lines.
  • Off-Grid: Independent system, ideal for properties without access to the grid, though requiring higher upfront investment. In many states, off-grid power systems are illegal.

Whole Home Backup vs. Partial Backup:

  • Whole Home Backup: Viable for those with ample budgets and large electrical appliances.
  • Partial Backup: Prioritize essential appliances for a more budget-friendly solution. Partial backup is also a good investment for saving money during time-of-use peak hours. Oftentimes the smaller investment can lead to a much shorter payback period.

Types of Solar Batteries:

  • Li-ion (Lithium-Ion): By far the most common type of home energy storage system available today. Energy-dense and efficient, technology innovations have made them very cost effective for EVs and homes. Our phones and power tools are mostly powered by Li-ion batteries too.
  • SLA (Sealed Lead Acid): Cost-effective but heavier with lower energy density. This is the same chemistry as the batteries that are used to start internal combustion vehicles, though SLA home batteries are configured differently so that they supply power for longer durations instead of the quick burst required to start an engine. SLA batteries require regular maintenance.
  • Flow Battery—Involve two chemical compounds dissolved in separate mediums that exchange electrical ions across a membrane. They can store a lot of energy, are considered very safe, but they require a lot of space and are much more expensive than Li-ion.

Factors to Consider When Buying Solar With Backup Battery:

  • Capacity: Measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), indicating stored energy. For a whole home backup, most homes require at least 10 kWh or more. For homeowners looking to store solar energy to peak usage hours, a 5 kWh battery can make a difference.
  • Cycle Life: Li-ion batteries offer impressive cycle life, enduring a higher number of charge and discharge cycles.
  • Voltage: Consider low vs. high voltage based on power demands and discharge rates.
  • Monitoring: Essential for system health and maximizing energy savings.
  • Inverter Compatibility: Ensure compatibility for efficient energy flow between solar panels, battery, and loads.
  • Technical Support: Reliable support is crucial for smooth installation and ongoing operation.
  • Safety: Look for certified safety features to prevent accidents or hazards.
  • Price: Total cost varies based on power and storage needs.
  • Warranty: Ensure robust warranties for solar panels, batteries, inverters, and monitoring hardware.

Home energy storage can make you a better climate citizen, save you money, and make you more secure in your home’s energy supply. If you are considering going solar, or already have a solar energy system, a solar home battery can be a very good investment.

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